I am immensely proud to join with Second Amendment supporters across America in celebrating a major milestone reached in April, when Georgia became the 25th constitutional-carry state. Law-abiding gun owners living in the Peach State no longer face the burden of acquiring a government-issued permit before they can carry concealed. As I write this column, half the nation recognizes the right to bear arms without government permission. And that’s just half of the actual states. More than half of the country, by both population and geography, is now under the constitutional-carry ideal originally envisioned by our Founding Fathers when they incorporated the Second Amendment as one of our nation’s fundamental doctrines nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago.
Thirty-five years ago, only a handful of states had any legal means for concealed carry, and 20 years ago, only Vermont didn’t require a permit or license to carry a concealed handgun.
America did not achieve this milestone by accident or happenstance. NRA members, gun owners and other volunteers and activists did what they always do; They showed up. They showed up at town halls. They showed up at committee meetings and for floor votes. And, when change was necessary, they showed up on election day. This victory was made possible by thousands upon thousands of hours of hard work put in by those who value our fundamental right to keep and bear arms. In fact, no state immediately jumped from no concealed carry to concealed carry with no permit required—that rarely happens with any long-term, legislative goal. It required intervening steps, in virtually every instance getting “shall-issue” legislation passed before being able to tackle constitutional carry.
Shall-issue laws make it possible for anyone who doesn’t meet a list of objective disqualifications to receive a permit to carry. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, these laws became the norm in America, as we moved away from more restrictive “may-issue” laws. By the early 2000s, NRA began pursuing laws that eliminated the need for a permit entirely, beginning with Alaska in 2003. These state-by-state efforts methodically changed the way the nation understood, viewed and respected the Second Amendment and carry. And, bit-by-bit, American support for carry outside of the home grew exponentially.
By 2013, every state in America had adopted concealed-carry legislation of some kind. Forty-two states had some type of law that made it possible for law-abiding adults to carry a concealed handgun for personal protection, but eight were still “may issue,” where government bureaucrats are given the authority to arbitrarily deny permit applicants. In 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear an NRA-backed and supported case, NYSRPA v. Bruen, challenging the constitutionality of New York’s “may-issue” regime. This summer, the Court will issue a ruling that we hope will declare “may issue” unconstitutional in New York. If they do, it will be the beginning of the end of “may issue” in the remaining seven states and further enshrine the concealed-carry movement in the firmament of all of our nation’s proud civil-rights campaigns.
There is no denying the success of the carry movement in America. And that’s what it is: a movement. The NRA has focused its legislative efforts on restoring the right to bear arms for the last 35 years, but we didn’t get here alone. This is the result of motivated Americans, for decades, cast millions of votes in thousands of elections that brought us to today.
And the COVID pandemic turbocharged the movement. In the last two years, Americans have watched as law-enforcement numbers dwindled, dangerous felons received furloughs and crime surged due to soft-on-crime prosecutors in some of America’s largest cities. At the same time, millions of Americans purchased their first firearm, as legitimate concerns over violent crime impacting them or their families began to take hold. Many more Americans applied for their first permit to carry—understanding that criminals don’t only target victims in their homes—only to find that permitting offices were closed or had huge backlogs.
That failure made it all the more obvious that a system of government preauthorization is incompatible with the exercise of a fundamental right.
For the last 35 years, the NRA has been fighting for the right of every law-abiding American to defend themselves and their families, and I am profoundly honored to have been allowed to take part in this movement for the last two decades. Today, we celebrate a milestone of 25 constitutional carry states. Tomorrow, we work toward number 26.